A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
Soon a shroud of vagueness envelops the whole countryside.
But the moon rises early from behind the range and fortunately it is a
thick crescent, so that we can see our direction clearly enough under
its beams as soon as my eyes become accustomed to the spreading
darkness. Nevertheless, when our route takes us, after much twisting
and turning, along the top of a forest-clothed ridge, we find ourselves
surrounded by blackness and can scarcely pick our way through the
trees. At last we emerge into the silvery light once more and then
my pony has a three-mile stretch of level visible mountain-side track
The chief practical advantage of such a path, I reflect dryly,
is that you cannot possibly lose your way. No signposts are provided
merely because no signposts are needed. You may go forward or
turn back and retreat, but you cannot go anywhere else—unless,
indeed, you know how to scale perpendicular cliffs or to descend
abrupt precipices. This is far better than wandering through a
strange city, where nothing is easier than getting oneself lost.
Yes, it is the last lap of the journey. We ride through a monstrous
yet beautiful ghost-world. Leaves turn to silver in the moonbeams
and tree-trunks seem to be carved out of frosted stone* There is
something indescribably weird in the picture of pale moonlight on
the world's giants. I judge the time to be about nine o'clock, but I
cannot tell with exactness, for my wristlet watch has been smashed
in the unlucky accident and henceforth I must exist timeless until
my return to civilization. Not that it will be any noticeable loss, I
decide sardonically, for time and I can well part with each other for
a few months. The earth must henceforth turn in its diurnal course
unheeded. Moreover, it was better for me to have fallen a few feet
than three thousand.
Silhoueued against the black background of the sky, which is
now rapidly filling with the first multitude of trembling stars which
arrive with their jewels as ambassadors of the night, stands the
rising terrace of peaks that crosses the far end of our route trans-
versely and blocks the valley. It is like a line crowded with pyramids.
Each is now a wraith-like titan, grand, grim, yet undeniably beautiful.
Each mocks at this puny pony-mounted creature that dares to
invade its silent realm. For the Himalayas, in this .weird light, has
become the fabled land of the giants. Here, those fairy stories which
cheered our childhood may well come true. It is fitting that I should
suddenly detect, on the western horizon, the beautiful star-cluster
of the Pleiades in the zodiacal constellation of Taurus. Not an
ancient people exists but has its legend of these seven daughters of
Atlas who were raised to the heavens and transformed into stats.
I push on more eagerly. It is fortunate that we have sufficient